Ex- Facebook employee, Frances Haugen is a whistleblower who tries to raise awareness of the risks generated by Big Tech policies, and she seems to be trying to protect users. Behind this simplistic appearance, the reality of the issues at stake is very different.
After making headlines in the United States, Frances Haugen led a lobbying campaign in Europe, with parliaments or leaders of Member States, and with European institutions.
And the European Union is preparing the DSA (Digital Service Act) directive. One of its objectives would be to increase Facebook censorship by imposing on Big Tech an obligation of means of moderation. Frances Haugen welcomes this project, and wants this European law to become a global gold standard. While calling on the European legislator to rely on the advice of Facebook experts.
First risk: US legislative interference in Europe. Second risk: A conspicuous desire to make European law a global model. This should apply in particular in Africa, and this constitutes a cyber-colonial risk.
Frances Haugen announces three billion Facebook users. France, for example, has 67 million inhabitants. In other words, for Facebook, France is just a crumb. We must measure the importance of these figures before discussing the legal status applicable to Big Tech: hosting providers or publishers? The issue being that if Facebook has to moderate, edit and censor postings, it means that Facebook would be forced to edit the exchanges of ideas of three billion people. Which would give it a power that has simply never been seen in the history of mankind.
Current debates lead to the question of epistemic shortcomings (i.e. the lack of culture) of legislators. Today some players want to impose an obligation of censorship on Big Tech, which are hosting providers, whereas historically, Directive 2000/31 EC, or at least its transposition into French law, had generated a revolt of unprecedented magnitude on the Internet: neither hosting providers nor users agreed that the law compels hosting providers to judge and censor user postings. Their common position was crystal clear: only a judge can judge the illegality of content posted on the internet, and only after this judgment hosting providers must remove this content. Simply put, hosting providers don't have to judge user posts. As a reminder, at that time, opponents of the bill sent tens of millions of emails to French parliamentarians. The current legislator - and the media - seem to have totally forgotten this period in the history of the Internet.
Imposing an obligation of moderation on Big Tech companies - which have a global scope - is to change hosting providers into publishers. First risk: this increases legal insecurity for hosting providers, and their expenses as well. Second risk: Big Tech would have the power to censor citizens of any country in place of the courts of these countries, which denies the users right to a fair trial, and weakens judicial institutions, in particular African ones, who incidentally happen to be the only ones to know the languages of certain exchanges. Third risk: opinion manipulation, in particular during election periods. Facebook could thus tip an election in favor of a regime desired by the United States. Fourth risk: heads of state could be censored. This risk has already materialised twice in Africa, with the censorship of the Nigerian President, and that of the Ethiopian Prime Minister.
There are certainly many other risks, but one of them is worth mentioning: the one that will threaten Big Tech companies that seek the power to censor all of humanity. One would have to be naïve to believe that faced with this new imperialism, users will not retaliate. The backlash could be brutal and lead to large-scale information struggles. And, like Carthage, new digital armies could lead offensives of different kinds against the Big Tech empire and its possible allies.